Each day it’s important to press “pause” and reflect if you are living your best life. Most of us are living from a place of fear or auto-pilot that simply reacts to life from the information and patterns we gathered from past-experience, especially the painful ones as fear is 5x more likely to record in our brain for survival purposes. So how can you break this cycle of fearful, reactionary living? This is where mindful connection to self becomes essential. Self as I am defining it here is that part of you that is curious, calm, confident, compassionate, courageous, creative, connected, and filled with clarity. You can also identify with self by taking an inventory of to what degree you are living in a pain-free body. Our bodies do indeed keep score with the painful experiences and mindsets we get stuck in, and my goal today is to give you a starting place to gather needed information to unlock this pain-body and move further into self.
There are more pathways to healing than I can count. Honestly, healing is a personal journey for each of us, but there are some over-arching principles that I see applying to all in the healing process. Today I will address just two: acceptance and safety.
Acceptance is the first step in the healing process of finding and living in “self.” We cannot leave a place until we arrive at it. The pause I mentioned above allows you to simply gather information, or arrive at where you are in this moment. I challenge you to go inside and be internally focused in this practice, removing external distraction, and just notice with nonjudgmental compassion what sensations, feelings, and thoughts are coming up. This is a great time to just breathe and this allows the body to move into safety which we will discuss more in a moment. You will notice that there are common themes to your thoughts, maybe even like they take on a personality. I like to call these “parts” from the Internal Family Systems trauma model I use in therapy. These parts have a role to protect the wounds you hold from further injury, your body from further pain, and are usually operating out of fear and sense of overwhelm. Notice how tight you get in your body and the nature of the fears your mind is presenting. It’s like you are currently in danger, even if you look around and there is no immediate threat. These parts do things like shame us into always checking and performing, shut us down when feeling overwhelmed, and even help us avoid seeing and acknowledging what is going on inside us. They have great intentions, but this only keeps the wound they are protecting stuck and online, and most importantly these parts keep self from doing its most important job, to heal brokenness from past experience and connect us to our sources of strength.
That bring us to Safety. Once we have accepted where we are and what is going on in our mind and bodies you are ready to establish safety. You better believe that your protective parts will not take a step back from their roles unless they feel heard, understood, that you, self, will take the reins of meeting the need to feel safe. This can be done in a variety of ways, but some of my favorites are journaling, art expression, maybe finding a song that speaks this your truth, and prayer/mediation. The important thing is that the medium you choose feels safe and nonjudgmental. When you are ready for unpacking this new understanding with an attachment-safe validating person who can stay neutral such as therapist or good friend can lead to even further healing. Some of your partners have this capacity and others get their own parts triggered when you explore with them so be aware of their current capacity. Some questions to ask your parts using the above mediums include: How are your trying to protect me (usually from overwhelm and further wounding), What are your protecting? (Can be a past hurtful experience or negative belief), What are you afraid of? As you create a safe space to explore these answers with compassion, you open the door for self to step forward and offer solutions to your mind, heart, and even directly to these parts that can unlock new ways of addressing your painful experience.
Believe it or not, you live in a self-healing body, and when you can accept and fully witness your painful story, desire to let it go, and then seek the necessary safety and healing source to unpack and unburden yourself, the miracle of healing occurs. I add my witness that this process works, and I have been fortunate enough to be the recipient, instrument, and witness of it many times. I look forward to sharing more ways you can personalize your healing process and tools to do so in coming posts this year!